If a Presidential Action Isn't Reported to the White House Press Corps, Does It Make A Sound?

Here's an interesting Politico story on the Obama Administration's inconsistent release of information on various Presidential actions.

In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor's system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D'Ivoire.

Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.

The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site. . . .

A Politico review of Federal Register issuances since Obama took office found three executive orders, one presidential memorandum, one presidential notice, and one proclamation that went unannounced by the White House.

I don't see anything nefarious here, as none of these actions are the sort of thing that an Administration would want to hide. But it is nonetheless interesting that the White House has failed to announce significant policy actions, and even more interesting that this failure has meant that such actions go largely unreported in traditional news outlets.

In a related vein, the Administration has yet to follow through with its promise of "Sunlight before Signing" either. President Obama pledged delay signing all non-emergency legislation for five days so as to allow public examination and discussion. Yet President Obama signed both the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and S-CHIP extension within two days of passage. He waited a little longer to sign the stimulus bill, but that was supposed to be such an emergency that the House leadership would not keep their commitment to giving the public 48-hours to digest the bill before a vote was called.

These stories (and others) underscore the fact that it is much easier to promise greater sunlight and transparency than it is to deliver. Campaign promises notwithstanding, the Administration is likely to stumble along for a bit in this area. But as an advocate of greater government transparency, this is an area in which I hope the Administration regains its footing.